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Tuesday
Mar222011

600 SEL

In 1991 Mercedes-Benz introduced as a 1992 model the replacement to the venerable 126 version of the S Class. Yes...agreed by then the 126 was iconic. The replacement was the 140 version, it was bigger, supremely sophisticated, more expensive, and launched during challenging economic times in North America. Accompanied by a challenging world with incidences of belligerence in the same areas as today (some things never change).

The 140 embodied the latest Teutonic thinking in what a luxury sedan should be, with increased features, accompanied by emerging electronics, telematics and a new 12 cylinder version a first. The economic landscape is dire, the customers are concerned, and here is an over the top 12 cylinder Benz. 

In addition to having upstart Japanese luxury cars emerging on the market for tens of thousands less. While making claims of extreme reliability, and supreme customer service. The Japanese at the time had the Germans in their sights.

The 600 SEL (12 cylinder) was a serious amount of money, and to uphold the Teutonic tradition, its complex, and even more complex, as an example most of the engine controls were doubled (as if it was 2x6 cylinders). As is usually the case the diagnostic computers not available yet. You can quickly imagine the challenges in dealing with "electronic issues" of the early 140's compared to a 126. Think of this, what was complex back then, is perfectly normal, and available of most cars today.

The 6 cylinder version of the 140 had a 5 speed automatic (you needed an extra gear just to get the mass rolling), the top of the line V8 (500 SEL) was reasonably quick as expected. Yes...the imagination would wonder what a 12 cylinder would do?

At some point the opportunity presents itself to experience a 600 SEL, which is the same size as a 500 SEL, its big, its heavy, its cumbersome for city driving, and parking lot navigating. Although there is defenite cool, accompanied by a serious FYF. On the highway which is the ideal medium, if a 500 had power, if a 6.9 was impressive. A quick aside, a 12 cylinders delivers power in a smoother, more fluid, elegant fashion than an 8 cylinder. 

Yes...20 years ago throttling up a 600 SEL was an experience like no other, the speedometer needle would simply ramp up, and keep on ramping up, and keep on ramping up some more. If you want a sedan with sophisticated waftability you get a 12 cylinder. 

The folks that had an opportunity to experience a 600 SEL on a German autobahn were spellbound, by the performance and composure of the car. 

You could chip (back in the day you had to replace the chips) the ECU's of the 600 SEL which generated an appreciable horsepower increase, for a level of power that could/would crush most other sedans. These cars would start in 2nd gear (a long standing tradition), a tweaked 12 cylinder purposely starting in 1st gear was a serious muscle car.

What happened to used 600 SEL's...same history, the second owner does not have the resources of the first, and so on...

Why a 12 cylinder?

You surely don't need one.....but as serious gearheads have mentioned through the years, at some point one needs to own and experience a 12 cylinder sedan. 

 

 

Monday
Mar212011

Price of Cars

The other day it struck us that in a competitive, global auto industry, it must be immensely challenging for any manufacturer to achieve a price advantage. In many instances its the same components, from the same suppliers, with prices finely adjusted with the use of technology, and consultants. 

Most vehicles in the various price segments display the same components and pricing philosophy irrelevant of the manufacturers. Uncanny the similarities between the manufacturers to achieve, arrive at a price point. 

Which begs the question what constitutes a compelling difference?

Styling: As we have mentioned on numerous occasions that styling makes a compelling difference, while bending sheet metal does not cost more money.

Interiors: At times you would imagine that every manufacturer attended the same 3 day seminar in interior design. At this price point we offer this, at another price point its different materials, and so on. We often wonder the provenance of the leather, and the various imaginative names for what used to be called vinyl. 

Powertrains: In Canada All Wheel Drive is popular and in demand, as we say its the idea of transcending winter. In most instances its a FWD platform converted to AWD that fill the requirement. Engines persist in having a marketing perspective, even if a 4 cylinder with a turbo is as good as a 6 cylinder, or a 6 cylinder with a turbo is as good as a V8. Transmissions...when you can easily get an 8 speed automatic, anything less than a 6 speed might be perceived as silly cost savings. 

Fuel Economy: CSM (Citizen Main Street) desires an intellectual confirmation that their choice of an AWD vehicle, with more than less ground clearance will deliver some sort of fuel economy. 

We can keep on going, surely you see the emerging picture....not much of a difference yet except for styling.

Features: They are obvious, tangible, perceived as value or added value. Each manufacturer makes their own decisions, establishes a direction regarding the features that are offered. Obvious they are seeking a competitive advantage. 

Infotainement: You could also call it the center of the dash...no 20 cm screen you lose on the higher priced vehicles. Obvious that the various forms of connectivity are expected. Some manufacturers get in all sorts of situations here, while others are several steps ahead. The rule is the more the better.

Emotional Appeal: We are still humans, we still get emotional about vehicles, and some vehicles have more appeal than others, especially if one is an enthusiast, or a gearhead. The manufacturers with the storied brands have an easier time, than manufacturers with brands that are seeking a position. While some upstart brands are perhaps showing everyone else how its done. 

Execution: How a manufacturer executes its car(s), makes a huge difference, especially that each manufacturer has their own "execution philosophy" which is part of their brand DNA. In some instances the "leadership team" has moments of genius, in others its complete brain fades. Suffice to say that one of the reason some cars do not sell, is the poor, non competitive execution.

Back in the day, there was MSRP, Dealer Invoice (a closely guarded secret), Holdback (usually refunded to the dealer quarterly), and PMA (Past Model Allowance) when the new models came out. If an individual knew a dealer, often the dealer would take out his invoice, show it, and ask the individual to give him a fair profit. You wish it would be that simple today...at a time of dynamic pricing where the deal provides a measurable competitive advantage.  

The Deal: Its a tactical tool to achieve monthly results, it serves different strategies for different manufacturers. One manufacturer is strategically intent of preserving its market position, and will use a "the deal" to protect or gain. Another manufacturer has a few too many execution brain fades, and will use "the deal" to move the iron. Yes...and every other situation that comes along.

Does knowing the cost of a vehicle give you an advantage....perhaps!

Does having a crystal ball to visualise the next deal give you an advantage, defenitely!

 

 

 

Saturday
Mar192011

Ferrari P4/5 Competizione

You surely remember the Ferrari P4 owned by Jim Glickenhous and designed by Jason Castriota...

The competizione version...

 

Friday
Mar182011

Vroom Room 

Good Morning!

Another Vroom Room, we have been ahead by an hour for most of the week, would you believe that some birds are chirping in the morning, and in a few days it will officially be Spring. Come in, make yourself comfortable.

Lets take a moment to be thankful and appreciative for what we have, send our prayers, our thoughts, and wish all the folks in Japan the best, especially the ones that have been horrifically impacted, and perhaps even lost loved ones.

Its probably normal that when an horrific calamity strikes, it ramps up the global media machine, we see and hear the same sound, and video bites over and over, and over again. Its also fascinating to see media enterprises compete with each other for the best or most exclusive bite. If the magnitude of this calimity happens once in 100 years (at least 3 generations), perhaps after spending several days covering every minute detail of the horror, and horrific aftermath its enough. 

Could it be that by now humans have a desire to move on to something positive, to a glimmer of hope? Could it be that its a calamity of such magnitude that humans across the globe have to come together to initiate a solution?

What do you think?

We need energy to power our lifestyles, industries, and technology. Within the space of a few months we are witnessing was can go wrong with various forms of energy, be it the oil spill in the gulf, or now the nuclear challenges in Japan. At a time when everyone clamors for clarity and transparency, during both incidents it was opaque, with what seemed like unsatisfactory answers. Ever fix a valve and a pipe a few kilometers under water? Ever cool down a reactor, lets make it a few reactors when they are overheating?

The various forms of energy required on a daily basis to progress in our lives, when something goes wrong, its a stark reminder that its easy to verbalise that we want our cake, and eat it....different reality to execute it when it goes wrong....and it usually tends to get worse before it gets better, and nobody has all the answers among rampant speculation from a myriad of experts, stakeholders, pundits. 

As if we have to remind you...tomorrow is the 12 Hours of Sebring.

One very unhappy Lamborghini customer...here.

Extensive photo gallery of the Amelia Island Concours...here.

 

Thursday
Mar172011

Aston Martin Vantage S

Some Aston Martin visual candy from the Ascari Race Resort...